There is nothing more exciting than a rally race. There you are, racing at top speeds high above the ground on narrow mountain roads. One false turn and you'll go barreling off the cliff and never be heard from again. Forget NASCAR, offroad rally racing is where the exciting action is. Sadly, not all of that exciting action has rubbed off on Jeremy McGrath's Offroad.
This Xbox Live Arcade release doesn't pretend to be anything more than a simple racing game. You get six tracks to race on, a 23 event campaign mode and a barebones collection of multiplayer modes. Jeremy McGrath's Offroad plays it safe, offering an unspectacular racing experience that doesn't take any chances.
The campaign is short and simple. You race through 23 events, which include only two different game types. You'll either be locked in an eight car race to the finish line, or you'll be racing against the clock in a speed test. With not even two dozen events, I found myself speeding through the campaign in no time. Not only did I complete the game in less than two hours, but I had collected nearly all of the available achievements.
The six stages take us all over the world. We race through a desert-filled Utah, the snow-covered mountains of the Netherlands, the forests of Michigan, meadows of Wyoming, jungles in Equador and mountains of California. All six stages offer environmental obstacles that can strike at any time. In one stage you'll see a rock slide cover part of the road, while another features barrels and other debris falling onto the track. I would like to have seen more of that kind of thing.
While some of the backgrounds are pretty and I like the variety in locations, there's nothing about the visuals that stands out. The vehicles aren't as sharp as you would expect and they never leave a single track in the dirt, mud or sand. This visual difference is especially jarring when compared to Sega Rally, Jeremy McGrath's leading competition on the Xbox Live Arcade. In Sega's rally racer, players cut through the snow and create tracks that never went away. It was an impressive visual trick that really gave Sega Rally a unique style. There's nothing like that here. In a lot of ways this feels like a throwback to older PlayStation 2 offroad games.
But even if you can get over the disappointing visuals, the real problem with Jeremy McGrath's Offroad is the difficulty. Not to toot my own horn, but I nailed first place on every single event in the campaign mode on my first try. Even after bumping the difficulty up, I found myself ten or more seconds ahead of the competition on every track. It was a blowout. And because it was so easy, I got bored and started to tune out half way through.
The arcade mode isn't much better, giving you the ability to customize the race type you want. There's also a time trial mode, which involves you racing against a ghost of your best time. Again, this is all very basic stuff that you would expect to see in a racing game like this.
Despite some of its problems, I did end have a good time racing through some of the windier courses. The vehicle handling was good and I liked the experience-based leveling up system found in the campaign mode. The game's push-over difficulty is ultimately what left me cold, making Jeremy McGrath's Offroad a hard game to recommend.